Paying the price

Many vulnerable young people haven’t had the financial education that their peers take for granted. But what are the consequences of not having good financial skills and getting into debt when you have little support? More importantly, what can we do about it?

Our report - Paying the price: can we help the most vulnerable young people avoid unmanageable debt? - raises concerns about young people who haven't learnt about money in the usual way, through school or home, because they aren’t positive places for them.

Who are we talking about?

We mean young people who:

  • don’t have a positive relationship with parents, carers or teachers;
  • aren’t living at home or are homeless;
  • aren’t going to school or have been excluded from school;
  • have a poor academic record;
  • may be dealing with other challenging issues at home.

What our report found

Vulnerable young people are getting high-interest loans and products. We’re worried that this is being made worse by a lack of financial knowledge. For many, the debt is becoming unmanageable. The extra burden can have long-term effects on their life chances and health, especially for those who already face challenges.


We found that:

  • 67% of households across the UK headed by 18 to 25 year olds have unsecured debt which typically has high interest rates;
  • 42% of our frontline staff know young people aged 16 to 25 who are getting high-interest credit, cash or goods such as payday loans – that’s around 3,500 vulnerable young people;
  • 45% of children and young people across the UK haven’t received financial education or don’t know if they have;
  • of those who have been financially educated, 87% learnt at home and 27% learnt at school.

When young people get into debt it can lead to mental health problems, such as stress and anxiety, homelessness, and risk-taking behaviour. It can also stop them from holding down a job or finding training, as well as having a negative effect on their relationships. Adding to the challenges they already face, like living independently without enough support, it only makes matters worse.

When you finally get money coming in and realise you owe it all out, it’s the worst feeling in the world. It makes you feel like dying.
Young person

What needs to change

From our experience and wider evidence, financial education for the most vulnerable young people needs to take into account the following:

  1. Someone to trust and learn from
    Young people who face challenges in their lives need the support of an adult they trust – they’re more likely to listen and learn from staff they’ve developed relationships with.
  2. Integrating services and alternatives to home and school
    School and home may not be the right environments for some young people to receive financial education. It should be available in other places that they use, like children’s centres and youth clubs, social care and health services, and courts.
  3. Making sense of money
    Learning about money shouldn’t be dull and boring - it should use real-life situations young people can relate to. Practical examples can be used to teach tricky concepts, like budgeting or reducing debt, and combining money matters with other life skills, like cookery, can bring them to life.

What happens next?

We are calling on governments across the UK to stop vulnerable young people from getting into money trouble by:

  • making sure that national financial capability and inclusion strategies include a specific plan for vulnerable young people;
  • targeting them with specific support, which goes beyond home and school;
  • involving the young people themselves in developing solutions to money problems.
Taking out a loan feels positive but actually it turns out to be negative.
Young person

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